TPP High On Agenda for PM’s Visit to Washington

Prime Minister Key leaves for Washington this week.  He needs to take with him a strong message on TPP – the deal can be finished only if there is an ambitious outcome on the table and only if all share equally in the benefits.  There is no room for dodgy bilateral deals on the side of TPP.

The Prime Minister’s visit takes place as reports abound of the imminent demise of TPP.  Such reports are greatly exaggerated.  While some momentum has certainly been lost in recent months, TPP is still very much a “live” negotiation and economies are re-engaging in a flurry of bilateral consultations in advance of another Lead Negotiators’ gathering in July.

A quick and dirty end to the negotiation serves no-one’s interest, especially not New Zealand’s as we push for a high quality, ambitious and comprehensive outcome, one that advances our market access needs in Japan, the United States, Canada and Mexico.  The recent Australia-Japan FTA has set a low benchmark for tariff elimination in products of interest to New Zealand like beef and dairy products – this cannot be accepted as a basis for TPP.  If, as some are suggesting, the United States has conceded to Japan that TPP might not be fully comprehensive, then as Trade Minister Groser has suggested, these two need to demonstrate how the goal of a high quality agreement can be reached.  The US and Japan also need to be unequivocal that benefits of tariff elimination in TPP will apply to all parties. It is only on this basis that others can reasonably be expected to participate in the wider rule-making process.

At the same time New Zealand needs to pay close attention to those new trade rules – they need to be made in a way which meets the needs of our economy in terms of encouraging investment, promoting innovation, fostering competition, reducing costs and improving the ease and speed of doing business.  New Zealand has interests beyond market access even if tariffs on agricultural products are the most visible benefits from a successful TPP.  Getting this right – and in a way that avoids unintended consequences – takes time.